Monday, 11 January 2016

Tailoring Dramaturgy: Matthew Zajac

The 2106 tour of The Tailor of Inverness will
take the company throughout Scotland, Wales and England. The production originally opened at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms in 2008 and was an instant success and since then has been performed worldwide from Australia to New York.

Matthew Zajac’s multi-award-winning play has already played over 200 times in 10 countries and is directed by acclaimed Grid Iron director Ben Harrison, with a score from two of Scotland’s finest traditional fiddlers, Jonny Hardie and Gavin Marwick. Awards for the production included The Stage Award for Best Solo Performer 2008, Scotsman Fringe First, Holden Street Theatres Award and CATS Award Best Actor 2009.


What was the inspiration for this performance? 
The life of my father.

How did you go about gathering the team for The Tailor?
I met Ben Harrison at an event in 2007 and briefly told him the story. His response was very perceptive and we got on with each other immediately, so that was a serendipitous encounter. I subsequently asked him to work with me on the play and he was happy to do it. 

Ben and I then put the rest of the creative team together - a combination of great people who one or other of us had worked with previously plus Kai Fischer who we both knew was excellent.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I decided to become an actor after acting in a school production of The Crucible in Inverness in 1976. I started to make my own work with devised projects in the early ‘80s, with the Faultline Festival in Inverness from 1986-91 and with a couple of other self-generated projects during that period. 

I learned how to do this through the Drama course I took at Bristol University and through simply doing the projects. I was no good at sitting around waiting for someone to give me acting jobs, so I was also driven by the need to work.

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?

No, because The Tailor of Inverness was the first play I’d ever written.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope the audience has both an emotional and an intellectually stimulating experience.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Using all the theatre disciplines at my disposal to tell this complex
human story as clearly and powerfully as possible.

Do you see your work within any particular tradition? 

Yes, the tradition of engaging an audience in a great story with powerful sentiment, but without sentimentality.

Are there any other questions that might help me to understand the meaning of dramaturgy for you in your work?

I expect so, but I don’t know what you don’t understand.

Inspired by the life of Matthew’s father, it is the story of a boy who grew up on a farm in Galicia (Eastern Poland, now Western Ukraine) and became a tailor in Inverness, of how a life and an identity can be reconstructed. The tailor’s life spanned most of the 20th century, and the journey he took was made by thousands of Poles during the Second World War. His was a forced migration, subject to the brutal vagaries of war. Before settling in Scotland, he travelled and fought throughout Europe, the Soviet Union, the Middle East and England.

In a new country, he became a new man and integrated himself into the fabric of Highland life. He made clothes for thousands of people, including Matthew, constructing the outward trappings which play a part in defining who we are. This man’s story is not straightforward. He was one of millions whose fate was determined by massive upheavals over which he had no control. But was he really who he said he was? 

This extraordinary production tells the story of the tailor’s life and his son’s relationship to it through music, poetry, theatrical imagery, storytelling, moving and still video projections, costume and choreography.

Set and costume design is by Ali Maclaurin, Lighting design by Kai Fischer, Video Design by Tim Reid and Sound Design by Timothy Brinkhurst.

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